In a surprise move, the National Football League and NBC Sports are expected to announce July 28 that they will stream the entire Sunday Night Football lineup online at both NFL.com and NBCSports.com.
It will mark the first time a complete NFL contest will be streamed free of charge live in the United States. The streaming will be delivered under the title "Sunday Night Football Extra."
The live coverage on both Websites will come from NBC's television coverage of its 17-game Sunday Night Football schedule.
It remains to be seen what the agreement will mean for the NFL's online strategy. Prior to this, none of the NFL's other broadcast or cable television partners (Fox, CBS, ESPN) have been able to stream games for free as part of their partnerships with the league. The league informed those partners of the NBC deal in recent weeks.
Some industry insiders wonder if this is the first step toward the league eventually making all of its games available for free online. That, however, would take some wrangling with DirecTV. The service's subscribers who purchase the additional out-of-market "NFL Sunday Ticket" package can also view games online. But they must subscribe to DirecTV, order the "Sunday Ticket" package (which retails for about $269) and also order the "Superfan" upgrade (which costs another $99).
The deal with NBC was called a "one-year experiment" by a source with knowledge of the situation. NBC executives hope the "experiment" does not cannibalize viewership of its $600 million-per-year package, and instead keeps more viewers around—for instance, in the case of a lopsided contest.
The streaming will not include the ads that run on NBC's network coverage. Instead, a separate package will be sold jointly by the NFL and NBC. The Web presence also creates the opportunity for a presenting sponsorship to be sold online, as well as other potential sales elements.
"Sunday Night Football Extra" will contain a number of bonus features available only online. Among them are expected to be additional camera angles such as a dedicated camera following a star player, in-game on-demand highlights, and picture-in-picture capability.
NBC will also leverage its NBC Football Night in America studio team to bolster the online package, with the talent providing special in-game studio updates. The package may also include a live blog featuring both NBC and NFL Network talent.
The "Sunday Night Football Extra" online delivery will debut with NBC's season-opening telecast of the Washington Redskins-New York Giants game on Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. ET.